MILWAUKEE — Irving Falu’s signing with the Milwaukee Brewers barely made any waves. A 30-year-old infielder signed to a minor-league deal rarely does, as Falu seemed destined to spend most of the season in Triple-A.
Where Falu did leave his mark was in spring training, impressing the Brewers enough to garner serious consideration for one of the team’s bench spots.
Falu began the year with Triple-A Nashville but got the call to the big leagues when Milwaukee needed a backup shortstop after outrighting Jeff Bianchi to the minors. Falu had to be added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster, taking Bianchi’s place.
"He’s a guy that’s good in the infield," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He hasn’t played a lot of outfield this year in the minor leagues, but he’s good at short. He doesn’t strikeout. I was looking at his numbers, and he’s not a strikeout guy. I feel coming off the bench we can put him in to do some different things and he will put the ball in play."
The Puerto Rican signed with the Brewers as a minor-league free agent in December, joining Milwaukee after spending the first 11 years of his career in Kansas City’s organization. Falu made his major-league debut with the Royals in 2012, hitting .341 with seven RBI in 85 at-bats over 24 games as a switch hitter.
One of the last cuts from Kansas City’s big-league roster in 2013, Falu spent almost all of last season with Triple-A Omaha. He played in one game for the Royals, going 1-for-4.
"I’m so happy," Falu said of getting another chance to play in the big leagues. "In Kansas City, I played every day to win. Here, I like the team."
Falu, who is the cousin of former major-league shortstop Luis Alicea, was hitting .288 with a home run and eight RBI for Nashville when his contract was purchased, but the reason why he was brought up was his ability to play shortstop.
Elian Herrera can play the position, but Falu has played 550 minor-league games at shortstop. He also provides versatility, having over 100 career games in right field, third base and second base in the minor leagues.
"Both of these guys I really liked," Roenicke said of Falu and Herrera. "I thought they were solid in a lot of different areas. It’s hard as a utility man to be good defensively when you play a lot of positions. Being a switch hitter, it’s a big advantage, especially when you are pretty similar from both sides. Some of the guys we face we say, ‘Hey, let’s turn them around if we can.’ I don’t think these guys are that way."
Falu is just the 10th major-league player with the name Irving, but the first to go by his full first name. The last Irving to play in the big leagues was Irv Noren in 1960.
Ramirez on the mend: Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez took nearly two dozen groundballs Tuesday, his first time fielding batted balls since going on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
"I’m going to increase that total (Wednesday) and the next day," Ramirez said. "I’m looking forward to being healthy pretty soon."
Ramirez has placed no timetable on his return, as being able to run at 100 percent still stands in his way of being activated from the DL.
"Just the last thing is to try and get the stride out a little longer and feel like he can be in the game and extend when he needs to," Roenicke said. "We’ll see. I don’t know how long it’s going to take."
The Brewers are hopeful Ramirez will be able to return late in this current homestand or when Milwaukee travels to Minnesota next Wednesday. Ramirez will stand in and see live pitching when Rule 5 rookie left-hander Wei-Chung Wang throws a simulated game Wednesday but still is unsure as to if he’ll go out on a minor-league rehab assignment.
Ramirez did not want to go and get at-bats in the minor leagues last season when he returned from a knee injury, but appears to at least be open to the possibility this time.
"As I get closer to being ready to play again I’ll talk with (Roenicke) and I’m sure we’ll get something done," Ramirez said. "It depends on how you feel. I feel pretty good now. I’ve been hitting for a while now, so hopefully I don’t need to. But if I have to it’s not a big deal."
Getting work: The purpose of Wang’s simulated game Wednesday is to allow the young left-hander to get some work in on the side, something he hasn’t been able to do pitching in just six games.
The Brewers are trying to ensure the development of the 22-year-old isn’t stunted by some of the struggles he’s had trying to make the jump from rookie ball to the big leagues.
"He’ll be able to work on his breaking ball," Roenicke said. "The things he needs to do to help him to develop. We’re still trying to get him to move forward and it is hard to do that with the amount of innings he’s getting in games."
Henderson update: After being returned from a minor-league rehab assignment due to pain his right shoulder, Brewers reliever Jim Henderson received a cortisone shot Tuesday.
Henderson is hopeful the shot will help alleviate the inflammation in the shoulder.
"Once I’m pain free, I can take care of the rest," Henderson said. "I can strengthen it and get back out there. I just need to be pain free. If there is damage in there, then there is damage and that would put me out for the year.
"But if there is no damage, it’s just strengthening it and being pain free. I can come back from that. I know I can. I’ve been through it before."